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Connecting the Dots Towards the Empires of Our Future

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Yesterday thousands of people "connected the dots" as they rallied around the world to highlight the profound link between extreme weather and human induced climate change.

Gathering in various "hot" spots across the globe, campaigners revealed how the threads of climate change run across the entire planet.

Spearheaded by environmental advocacy group 350.org, organizers wanted to illustrate that global warming is no longer some distant threat that may affect us in the future; it's happening all around us, right now.

In the words of 350.org: "When Thailand has the worst flood in its history, a month after central America has the worst flood in its history, a few months after Pakistan flooded so badly that 20 million people are forced from their homes, it's connected."

Most people in the U.S. have already begun to connect the dots. According to a recent survey carried out by Yale University, Americans now associate those recent warm winters and blistering hot summers with human induced climate change. In March alone, over 7,000 warm weather records were broken all across the country.

Since 1880, global temperatures have risen by around 0.8C. And according to the UKCIP, most of that increase has been over the past 25 years, with a rise of 0.2C each decade. If humanity continues down this current trajectory, it may approach its demise in the not too distant future.

Last month, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that the world is heading towards a 6C temperature rise by the end of this century: "Energy-related CO2 emissions are at historic highs, we estimate that energy use and CO2 emissions would almost double by 2050."

It says that global efforts to rein in carbon emissions have not been enough; we are standing on the brink of irreversible climate change.

According to the World Health Organization, global warming already claims over 150,000 lives a year. In the words of Jim Hansen, NASA's leading climate scientist, extreme weather has become a grave "moral issue on par with slavery."

If this is our reality now, imagine what kind of dawn a 6C temperature rise will bring. According to the Climate Change Research Centre, it will create something "similar to the depths of the last ice age."

In other words, a global catastrophe sits on our collective horizon. And, "no place on the planet can remain an island of affluence in a sea of misery" says Maurice Strong, Secretary-General of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

"We are standing at an unprecedented crossroads"; the choices we make now will "profoundly" affect our global future, says Zero Carbon Britain. And "It's time for us to grow up" because we are facing a "war for civilization" says Paul Gilding, author of The Great Disruption. But, "this could be our finest hour."

It's time for world leaders to step up to the plate. When they gather for the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit next month, they must commit to a new "green" deal. Striking a new agreement this year is critical -- it means that we can step away from this precipice of terminal climate change.

Sadly, worries about the economy are eclipsing concerns about the health of our planet. But, as conservation biologist Richard Steiner points out, "the 'ecological debt' that we are accruing is far more consequential that our financial debt."

He says that we need an "emergency environmental stimulus package" of $300 billion per annum. This seems reasonable compared to the $1.6 trillion the world spends every year on defense.

Secondly, we need to rein in global carbon emissions. And, we can all play our part by; insulating our homes; buying less stuff; driving electric cars and planting more trees. But, as the global energy sector generates two thirds of those emissions, we must embrace a future powered by renewable energy.

According to the world's top scientists, half of all our power must come from green sources by 2035. And, although this may seem like a Herculean task, it's not -- renewable energy already accounts for 16% of all electricity worldwide.

Moreover, as global oil and gas supplies are running out, it makes complete economic sense. According to the World Wildlife Fund, if everyone on the planet used as much oil as the average person living in Singapore, our proven oil reserves would run out in less than 9 years time.

Investing in green energy will also help to revive our flagging global economy. According to the Millennium Institute, if just twelve G20 nations invested as little as 2% of their GDP over the next 5 years, it would create nearly 50 million new "decent" jobs.

Victor Hugo once said that "nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come." The idea for a sustainable future; it's time has come, for if temperatures rise by 6C, it will mark the end of life as we know it.

What lies before us is the greatest challenge of our time, and we must not fail. In the words of Winston Churchill, "the empires of the future are the empires of the mind." So, let's strive towards those empires; for it is here, and only here, that our children's children will find the empires of their future.

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